Thursday, September 28, 2006

Off to Courage Retreat

Leaving Scotland in the morning to motor down to Oxfordshire for the Courage retreat. I attended last year and just loved the people and their expression of faith and sexuality.

This year I will present my play, Queer 101, and lead Bibliodramas, a form of Bible study through theater developed by Peter Pitzele.

On Sunday I head back to Oxford to repeat my visit from last year to hang with Quakers there and to speak with an LGBT youth group.

Soooo, I won't blog over the weekend. I'll give you a chance to catch up.

But let me leave you with this short video I took with Alex and Noa when we went to Lund, Sweden for the Kulturnatten. Watch it to the end; there is a little surprise.

Views of Scotland

Yesterday I visited Edinburgh where I met with LGBT activists to talk about their various projects and goals and to see how I might contribute to the work they do.

Today I rode and walked (and ate) around the southern portion of the Scottish Highlands (mostly in Perthshire) wearing my favorite hat (from DITC (Dykes in the City). I know some of you prefer to look at the pictures (hey Tonya & Tina!) Below are some images, including one of a Scottish rival to my new Swedish food fetish. Can I possibly consider slathering Tartex on my Vegetarian Haggis???

Oh, and I shot a little video of our descent from the mountains. YIKES!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Slow Dancing with Ministers

Yesterday, here in Crieff, Scotland, I had two anxiety producing face to face encounters. Both could have caused me pain and blood loss.

The first encounter was with my new Scottish dentist (dental care is so expensive now in the US that my last two dentist have been from the UK). The second was a special meeting at the quarterly gathering with most of the ministers who pastor the churches for a small conservative denomination here in Scotland.

The dentist were far more painful than the pastors. Jill, the dental hygenist, saw to it that I had no more blood to spill by the time I reached the pastors.

I appreciate these ministers giving me an hour to speak to them about my experience as a same-gender loving man in a church and world that often rejected me and told me I had to change. The idea behind the meeting was to have me talk about the pastoral needs of LGBT people (a perspective that I learned from Harry Knox over at the HRC).

Officially this denomination believes that for someone to be gay or lesbian, they must repent of that "lifestyle" and live a celibate life. If not, they run the real risk of dis-fellowhip--they get chucked out. But from having recently been to retreat of LGBT Christians within this denomination, I discovered that many queer folks silently (and some not so silently) inhabit the pews of this church and even take on ministry roles.

The ministers listened attentively to my account of growing up with the belief that gay men are dirty, dangerous, unholy perverts. Spirit-led, Jesus loving, Bible believing Christians did not convince me of this, but people of the World who had nothing to do with God or faith. It was only after I became an Evangelical Christian in my teens that I learned that the conservative Church held to the same party line in regards to gays and lesbians.

Curious, that the sinful, ungodly World and the Spirit-led Church of Jesus would agree so strongly on this one point.

It raises the question, from where does this negative reaction to same-gender loving arise? From honestly discovering the heart of God from the scriptures and in prayer,--a holy conviction--or from an unholy place where oppression and violence rule?

As I spoke, I slipped into Quaker Gear, I am not talking about Plain Dress, I mean like the gears in a car. When I first attended Quaker meeting in Hartford, I heard John and Debbie Humphries present messages in meeting for worship. They spoke slowly, hesitantly, as if they weighed out each word before they said them. They flattened out their tone so that they would not animate their words with too much emotion, simply let the words do their work.

It sounded so strange to me at first, so awkward and artificial. But in time I learned the value of this plain speech and careful construction of verbal messages. Slowing down gives me time to say exactly what I mean to say and not get caught up in the emotions of my own message. In fact, it helps me to get better in touch with my emotions as I speak, and not gloss over them with quick phrases and figures of speech.

So in Quaker Gear, I told my story, of my early love for Jesus and the Bible and how I wanted nothing to separate me from the love of God in Jesus Christ. How I wanted to be pure in heart so that I could see God, and that I would do ANYTHING to be clean and free in Jesus. Therefore, the quest to become "holy" and free from homosexuality became my primary objective in life for nearly two decades.

The conservative church (and many liberal ones too) face the challenge of the Other among them. Usually the outsider is on, well, the outside. But us queer folks suddenly appear as one of the group but then again someone altogether different. The church faces a test, how will they deal with the Other among them. It is one of our gifts to the church to be that Other.

In speaking about homophobia and heterosexism, I often think of the words of Bob Painter, a concept that he left once in comments on this blog. The work of the Church and of individual believers is not to raise the alarm against queer invaders, not to build bulwarks and theological barriers, but to look closely to discover the source of their spurning of queer people. We must no longer conform to the patterns of this homophobic and heterosexist world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

That renewing for me so often comes from sitting and listening to the Other. As a white, able-bodied bio man, I change and learn and grow when I sit and listen to the narratives of women, people of color, transgender individuals and people living with disabilities. These narratives challenge and overthrow my assumptions.

So how did my meeting with these pastors go? Very well, I said what I needed to say, I said it carefully, lovingly and honestly. I stayed vulnerable and present throughout my talk. Will it bring a great change to these ministers' lives and ministries? Perhaps and hopefully. I know that several queer folks within the denomination will keep speaking their truth like they have been for years. But success in the world of activism cannot always be measured by the response of those who seem to be our opponents. Success, at least for me, is measured by doing what I believe is the right thing to do with authenticity.

The pastors now have their work to do, the work of listening to the Other and listening to God, to separate the messages they believe about us queer folks like a surgeon expertly uses her scalpel to cut out diseased tissue from the healthy, to divide asunder (to use King James English) the flesh and spirit, the things of this world and the things of God.

And I have a hard time believing that homophobia is a thing of God.

Daniel's Seven Point Plan

Daniel over at Ex-Gay Watch posted a thoughtful and clever satirical response to Linda Harvey's A Seven-Point Plan to Protect Christian Youth Against Homosexuality.

Read A Satirical Seven-Point Plan to Protect GAY YOUTH Against OPPRESSION

Monday, September 25, 2006

German Women's Magazine Visits Ex-Gay Movement

What do Uma Thurman, Heath Ledger, Alan Chambers and I have in common? Our images and words appear in the October edition of Maxi magazine, the German women's fashion/lifestyle monthly.

I won't post all of Tina Kopperschmidt's five page article here (go out and buy your own :-), but from what I can decipher, she spends several pages writing about her experience at this year's Exodus Conference. Towards the end of the article, she refers to ex-ex-gays and quotes "Daniel, 25" (Daniel "Ex-gay Watch" Gonzales perhaps?) He says,
Eines aber bereue ich besonders: dass mein Coming-out drei Jahre zu spät dam. Damals war ich am Collge und habe eine Menge wunderbarer Typen verpasst, mit denen ich tolle Beziehungen hätte führen können.
Which according to Babelfish translated into garbled English says,
However I particularly repent one: that mine Coming out three years too late dam. At that time I was at the Collge and a quantity of marvelous types missed, with which I could have led mad relations.
Mad relations indeed.

Here is an English tranlation of some remarks by Ms. Kpperschmidt and below parital images from the article.

Happy, Healthy Homos in Palm Springs

Daniel at Ex-Gay Watch posted photos and commentary about the protests surrounding Focus on the Family's Love Won Out conference held in Palm Springs this weekend. They look GREAT. Regan literally glows on the street and Daniel looks so official.

Ex-Gay Watch has really stepped up and taken an important role in consistently providing thoughtful, well-written analysis of the Ex-Gay Movement (and some funny and ocassionally the necessary snarky stuff too). I was speaking with Noa here in Sweden who told me how impressed he is in the quality writing on the Ex-Gay Watch site. One thing for sure is, they keep ex-gay leaders on their toes. Kinda like ballet dancers without the tutus.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Kulturnatten 06

First off, I want little dots over my name! I mean, they look so cool. So I propose that I now be known as Pëterson Töscåno.

Last night I went to Lund, Sweden with Alex and Noa, an incredibly cool and insightful gay couple, (You will hear lots more about them in the future!) Once a year Lund puts on Culture Night. Music in the streets, performers, art and great food.

Oh, and guess who is a BIG hit here? Marvin Bloom. Alex has personally shared Marvin with scores of Swedes (he forces them to sit down and listen to Marvin posts). The Marvin craze has taken off and there is even a Marvin clothes line. Alex and Noa model for us.

Jag är en stolt bög

Apparently the Swedish press adores me, well at least Lars Klint of Kvälls Posten does. I mean read what they are writing about me and my Homo No Mo presentation!
I går inleddes den tolfte Regnbågsfestivalen i Malmö. En manifestation på temat - Mångfald, Kärlek, Respekt, Förståelse.
Peterson Toscano var en av invigningstalarna i RFSL:s (Riksförbundet för sexuellt likaberättigande) lokaler på Monbijougatan. Han attackerade den amerikanska "ex-gay-rörelsen", som inte minst genom pingstpastor Åke Greens predikan fått starkt fäste även i Sverige.


I dag är Peterson Toscano en av USA:s mest tongivande röster för ett humanistiskt och mångfaldigt samhälle.
Humor, artisteri och personlig karisma är hans vapen.
- Hade samhället varit tolerant och kärleksfullt hade det inte behövts några exgayrörelser, säger han.
Read all of Jag är en stolt bög (and if you have any clue what they are saying, let me know)

Alex sent me a translation of the article. Like so many news stories I have read, it is a over the top and not completely accurate. I was told that the newspaper is a conservative one, but then conservative here in Sweden is not quite the same as Agape Press in the US. I find that my quotes don't sound familiar to me, at least not the way they are worded.

What the author failed to mention was that he missed most of my presentation, so I am not sure where he got all of his information. I NEVER said my parents forced me to become straight. Never happened. I said that when I was growing up they never said anything negative about being gay and they never said anything positive. I simply assumed they agreed with mainstream heterosexist society, but like most people who enrolled in an ex-gay program, I did it to myself.

I did say that I believe that most ex-gay leaders are victims of the larger heterosexist church that insists that you must conform to be part of the family, and that even after they "change", most churches do not accept "ex-gay" people to minister at church thus forcing them into ministry roles in ex-gay programs. I don't remember mentioning anything about anyone having a knife to their throat, but the image is fitting.

The conservative church keeps the ex-gays silent about their struggles and dishonest about the sort of change they really experienced. Ex-gay leaders may be some of the lonliest people in the world with no where to go and be completely honest about their struggles for fear of exposure by a rabid gay press and an intolerant Christian church.

I know I NEVER said, "I am a proud gay". (Sounds so 80's). I believe my exact words were, "I used to think that being gay was a curse on my life, or a sin to repent of or an illness to be healed. Now I see it as one of God's gifts to me."

Thanks Alex for the translation!
ag är en stolt bög = I am a proud gay/fag

MALMÖ. For 17 years his parents tried to make the son Peterson a heterosexual.
He contributed with $17000 himself for treatments.
"But I'm still gay. A proud gay", he says.

Yesterday Regnbågsfestivalen (The rainbow festival) in Malmö opened. A manifestation in the theme - Diversity, Love, Respect, Understanding.
Peterson Toscano was one of the introduction speakers at RFSL (National organisation for sexual equality) at their place at Monbijou street. He attacked the American ex gay movement that has gotten foothold in Sweden, especially thanks to the Pentecostal preacher Åke Green.

Wants to convert homosexuals
The ex gay movements mission is to convert persons with homo- and bisexual affections to heterosexuality.
"I have former homosexual friends who has children and says that they are happy with a woman. It is a confession said with a knife against their throat."
"They are worked on by the ex gay agents and have been thru advanced programs ant think that they are "cured" from homosexuality. They are fooling themselves and their surroundings."
"But I don't want to question their life and life choices, as long as they are happy and in harmony according to themselves."

Charisma is his weapon
Today Peterson Toscano is one of Americas most trendsetting voices that speaks up for a human and diversity.
Humor, artistry and personal charisma is his weapon.
"If the society had been tolerant and loving it wouldn't have to be any ex gay movement," he says.

Satirical play
Regnbågsfestivalen in Malmö lasts until the first of October. The events are many and held around the city.
This afternoon for example Peterson Toscano is performing his satirical play " No Mo Halfway House" about a home designed for making gays and lesbians hetero. And Regnbågsutställningen has vernissage. View the whole program at

Doin' Time in Malmö

Today is my last full day in Sweden. Off to Scotland tomorow morning. I spoke with Alex and Noa, a queer Christian couple I met on-line before coming here, about the myths many of us in the USA carry about Sweden. While conservatives point to it as an example of gays gone wild and evidence of the fall of Western cilivilation, many of us queer folks think of it as some sort of gay paradise where Swedish society fully embracies LGBT people.

Not so simple as that. Turns out the state of Connecticut, where I live, has much more progressive laws protecting the rights of transgender individuals then here in Sweden. Hate crimes happen all too often in Sweden. Far too many parents and churches reject transgender, lesbian, bisexual and gay loved ones. Extreme Right Wing activists say many dreadful lies about LGBT individuals. Yes, they have made some amazing advances here in Sweden. But it is no gay paradise. Intolerance, fear, hate can not be legislated away. That takes time and relationships and sitting together and hearing each other's stories.

The pictures you see here come from the beach area in Malmö. The amazing building is the Turning Torso designed by Spanish architect and sculptor, Santiago Calatrava. It stands as Europe's tallest apartment building. And as you can see, it is very photogenic. And below you will see the fine art that inspired the structure.

Also, I bumped into a lovely standard poodle, whose owner was thrilled when I asked to take a photo of her dog. The dog was uncertain at first, but after I took the first shot, began to pose like a pro. They get an awful lot of America's Next Top Model here. In fact, I've seen more American TV programs here in one week than I had seen for three months in the States!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sweden is SO Gay

Yes, just like the conservative anti-gay leaders in the US have warned, liberalize your views on same-sex partnership and all hell breaks loose! We have the terrifyingly instructive example of Sweden that introduced the dangerous practice of same-sex registered partners back in 1995. Then came domestic partnership and coming soon full-fledge marriage between people of the same sex.

Slippery slope indeed. First you marry off humans of the same-sex, what next?

On the ground here in Sweden, I've been able to witness firsthand the devastating toll same-sex partnership is having on this once normal, heterosexual, family value Viking people.

Not content with same-sex households, they now allow same-gender houses to form partnerships.

And although the sign says they are not allowed on the lawn, same-sex animal marriages are strongly supported.

Gay identity stamps itself everywhere. This isn't just any old paint store. Flaunting the rainbow flag makes this a GAY paint store. Färgservice? Come on, really what is that all about?

Legalized same-sex partnership has become so codified, that when I entered Sweden specially trained immigration officials uncovered my gayness and immediately assigned me a husband. I call him Sven, but his real name is Daniel. Of course he already has a boyfriend, so this raises my suspicions about polyamory in this country.

All the worse nightmare scenarios have come true here in this land of celebrated, legally recognized same-sex partnerships. In the center of Malmö, they erected a shrine to commemorate the passing of their various corrupt GAY laws. Of course this particular structure speaks mostly to gay men and bisexuals. A fitting design for the lesbians has yet to be installed.

USA--takes this as a warning. Legalized same-sex partnership is the "gateway" union that opens the doors to who knows what. Next thing you know you have some crazy person marrying a vegetable yeast paste. Now that is sick!

And where is the ex-gay movement in all of this???? Going to the Exodus Global Alliance web site, in search of some help here in Europe, one reads the cryptic message,
This regional office is being reorganized. Please contact the office in Canada during the interim.
An interim that began in around 1996 when Jeremy Marks went off the rails.

No worries, the ex-gay movement still operates under the radar here in Northern Europe through anti-gay religious groups and faith communities and the ever encompassing reach of heterosexism. One bisexual member of the gay theater group that is hosting my visiting, mentioned a recent study which 18% of the youth in Swedish school consider homosexuality a disease. She was shocked and thought it was a very high number.

A coalition of Swedish conservative parties just swept into power this week, and although not nearly as fascist as certain conservative leaders in large countries that speak English and go to war for oil while limiting the rights of same-sex couples, queer people I met here have have their concerns.

And these past two week hearing the stories of queer folks in England, Wales, Sweden and Denmark, it is still true that some parents of every faith and of no faith at all still reject their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children, even this liberal bastion of same-sex partnership.

(Today I present, Talkin' Trash in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, a talk in various forms at universities, academic conferences, churches, Christian festivals and now Pride events. In it I talk about what the ex-gay movement is, why I sought change for 17 years from my unwanted same-sex desires and how heterosexism, power and privilege and the use of language still holds sway over many who seek out ex-gay experiences.

I present the play Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House tomorrow here in Malmö then off to Scotland on Monday where I will meet with some gay activists later in the week and also have a private meeting with a group of moderately conservative ministers who are willing to discuss with me the pastoral needs of LGBT individuals and the people who love them.

More photos on the way too!)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

My New Love!

Yes, it has finally happened. I fell in love and don't think I can ever come back to the US. Ah, nothing like love to sweep you off your feet, to make you giddy. And here is the shocker--I did not fall in love with a man!

I know, I know, after all that ex-gay and ex-ex-gay stuff, it is crazy. But we can't control love. It happens in the strangest ways, in the strangest places. And yes, I know about long distance relationships, the challenges, particularly with cross-cultural stuff.

And this love is, well, complicated, because my new love is not, well, human. You see I have fallen in love with Tartex, the organic vegetarian yeast paste, (Available in Mushroom, Green Olive, GarlicHerb Meadow, Shiitake and Original) popular among vegetarians in Sweden and Germany.

And now, Sweden's Next Top Tartex Model!!!

For all my silliness, I actually am feeling a little sad these past few days. It is lovely here and the people are super, but I miss home and increasingly feel the loss of my mother. Tartex on bread (and lentils and bananas and dark chocolate) just doesn't fill the void.

Lately I've been thinking about what good came of my ex-gay experiences, especially my time in Love in Action. (No doubt more harm came than good, but still some good came).

One thing I learned during that time as I deeply felt the loss of my wife, who was also my best friend, was how to sit in pain without driving it away or covering it over.

I remember a moment when I thought I was going to die of heartache and I begged Jesus to take away the pain. Hit me with that Holy Ghost Heroin!

Suddenly words formed in my head to the effect, "I will not take away the pain, I cannot, it is real, but I will sit in it with you." (Inspired in part by the scriptures that the suffering servant is a man of sorrows acquainted with grief and that he can fellowship with us in our own sufferings)

So for weeks and months I let the pain just be. At the oddest times I burst into tears and wept uncontrolably (at the end of Mr. Holland's Opus and listening to Michael W. Smith???!). But I just let the pain be, often without words, just sitting with the ache and with an image of Jesus, gentle, compassionate, patient, sitting and waiting by my side. And really what more can we want from a friend?